213

Oliver Mtukudzi: Nhava

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Oliver Mtukudzi: Nhava It's been thirty years since Oliver "Tuku Mtukudzi released his debut single, and in that time the Zimbabwean superstar has managed to cement a very distinctive sound. Together with his Black Spirits band, Tuku has developed a fusion of traditional Shona music with other southern African idioms, colored by faint blues and country overtones, that somehow always seems uplifting, no matter how serious a message it may embody. Open ears around the world have caught on to his accessible sound, making him a global icon of Zimbabwean culture rivaled only by his fellow countryman (now expatriate), Thomas Mapfumo.

And Nhava, Tuku's Heads Up Africa debut, is pretty close to the level of last year's very fine Shanda. It's got the same earthy grit and honesty, carried in large part by Mtukudzi's voice, which is agile and warm but hardly virtuosic in any conventional sense. It's also got the same depth of message—the socially conscious lyrics, folky in the most transparent sense, are not spelled out word for word, but carefully explained in the valuable liner notes. They touch on hope and action, the virtues of working together, family love, awareness, and the importance of respecting the environment, among other topics—often phrased using the poetic delivery that's long been an essential part of Shona music.

Tuku's arrangements for his ten-piece band are intricate but never busy, interlocking voices in criss-crossing rhythms and trading harmonized choruses with instrumental counterpoint. One can get a sense of how he builds up this network of sound by listening to the way themes are traded lightly and deftly among instruments, always supporting the human voice. Mtukudzi made a very rare solo appearance minus the Black Spirits on the recent Ndega Zvangu (Tuku Music/Sheer Sound, 2001), performing alone with his guitar, and this recording is quite illuminating about the raw foundations which give rise to so much texture and detail when the Black Spirits come into play.

The most successful pieces on Nhava (which means "carrying bag, a metaphor related to the journey of life) are the ones which explore warm melodies without too much distraction. The opening "Ninipa has an instantly catchy appeal and a sunny embrace. "Pindirai suffers a bit from heavy production (cleaner tones would have worked much better). The next track virtually begs bodily motion—and I recommend giving in— just like "Tiregerereiwo and "Dzokai down the road. As we have come to expect from Oliver Mtukudzi, this is a fresh and vibrant mix, yet more evidence that his formula remains fertile, flexible, and true to its roots.

Note: This recording is licensed by Sheer Sound in South Africa.


Track Listing: Ninipa, Izere Mhepo, Pindirai, Menzva Kudzimba, Hazvireve, Hope, Tiregerereiwo, Handiro Dambudziko, Tiri Mubindu, Dzokai, Dzidziso.

Personnel: Oliver Mtukudzi, acoustic guitar and lead vocals; Clive Mono Mukundu and Philani Mzala Dube, electric guitars; Never Mpofu, electric bass; Clive Bobby Mutyasira, drums; Jairos Hambahamba, keyboards; Kenny Neshamba, percussion and vocals; Mary Bell and Namatayi Mubariki, female vocals; Sam Mtukudzi, chord arrangement on Izere Mhepo.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Heads Up International | Style: Beyond Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Transparent Water CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Billows Of Blue CD/LP/Track Review Billows Of Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Love Dance CD/LP/Track Review Love Dance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Honest Woman CD/LP/Track Review Honest Woman
by James Nadal
Published: February 20, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Desire & Freedom" CD/LP/Track Review Desire & Freedom
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Brass Tactics" CD/LP/Track Review Brass Tactics
by Budd Kopman
Published: June 28, 2016
Read "Niechęć" CD/LP/Track Review Niechęć
by Geno Thackara
Published: April 16, 2016
Read "Les Indignés" CD/LP/Track Review Les Indignés
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 3, 2016
Read "Dreamland Mechanism" CD/LP/Track Review Dreamland Mechanism
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 10, 2016
Read "Emily’s D+Evolution" CD/LP/Track Review Emily’s D+Evolution
by Mark F. Turner
Published: April 12, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!